Celebrating TLC Staff: Bo and the TLC Brand

December 4, 2023

By Margaret Sands, Associate Director of Land Protection West

Bo leading a birding hike at Horton Grove. Photo: TLC Staff

For many TLC members and enthusiasts, Bo Howes is Triangle Land Conservancy. Whether he’s leading you through the woods identifying feathered friends by their trills and frills, behind the bar at a TLC event, or draped in blaze orange strolling through the woods, Bo’s 15 years as a TLC employee and ambassador have cemented him as one of the most recognizable faces of the organization.

Trading legal briefs for long walks

Bo came to TLC in 2008 after a decade practicing family law, eager to trade wading through long legal briefs for wading through streams and long walks in the woods. TLC still benefits from his keen eye for detail, his fluency in legalese, and his ability to argue both sides (even if just with himself). But even after fifteen years, to spend a day working outside with Bo is to witness someone truly enamored with the outdoors, who will never take for granted the privilege of someone actually paying him to be there. 

Bo is always quick to remind us that our work can’t be summarized in merely bucks and acres (despite what the rest of this report may say!). Though he’s responsible for thousands of acres conserved and millions of dollars raised, his investment in the human side of TLC may be his biggest impact of all. Luckily for me, and many of us who’ve launched conservation careers under his mentorship, Bo is incredibly generous with the wisdom he’s gained from his “many, many, many” years of experience.  

When I started at TLC, I wasn’t Bo’s direct report, or even in his department. Even so, when I popped my head into his office with a question, he would give me his full attention and consideration as if he didn’t have two hundred emails and half a dozen direct reports of his own to tend to. He made sure I left with a complete understanding and bolstered confidence in my own conservation knowledge.  

Putting people first by giving time and attention

Conservation is a long game, a concept based on perpetuity. Just as you never know when a casual conversation could turn into a momentous conservation project, you never know when time invested in a young conservationist can turn into an impactful environmental career. For Bo, those are always investments worth making. During his tenure, the TLC staff, and the land protection and stewardship department have more than doubled in size, enabling us to double our pace of conservation and the miles of trail on the ground in the last five years alone

Bo’s love of the outdoors and passion for the Piedmont in particular, were generations in the making. A native of Chapel Hill, Bo’s parents, Jonathan and Mary Howes, raised their family with a deep love of the environment. Mary is still a fixture of TLC events and not afraid to call on her celebrity son for special outings and topical lectures for her friends. Jonathan Howes was a beloved Chapel Hill politician, TLC board chair, and even served as Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources during the Hunt Administration.  

Sharing about Brumley at a TLC River Society event. Photo: TLC Staff

Bo’s impact on Brumley Forest

Although Bo steers clear of the political path, that doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention. His deep knowledge of the government and local leaders’ priorities has resulted in many successful partnerships, expertly navigated by his adept affability. As Director of Land Protection and Stewardship West, he has helped steer Brumley Forest from a long and complicated acquisition to an Orange County treasure and state recognized eBird hot spot. In 2019, he even expanded the preserve eastward by 60 acres meeting community demand for more trail and parking in the process.

Photo: TLC Staff

Understanding that conservation is a long game

Bo’s most recent land protection win was acquiring 248 beautifully wooded acres near Jordan Lake in Chatham County.  The result of years of fundraising and relationship building (that technically started when Bo was in high school!), this property protects water quality, secures wildlife habitat and corridors, and will eventually welcome visitors as a public preserve.

Those of you who’ve seen Bo walking his canine companions every week at Johnston Mill or peeking out from behind binoculars at Brumley North, may begin to wonder if these projects might be a little self-serving? But Bo knows that blurring the lines between passion and profession is the key to happiness, and a long career at TLC! Whether he’s serving on the Board of the NC Botanical Garden or the New Hope Audubon Society, or just out adventuring with his family, Bo never takes his metaphorical TLC hat off and he’s often donning a literal one too. So, next time you see him out and about, please take a minute to tip your own hat to his accomplishments and congratulate him on fifteen years at TLC. 

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